The Devil in the Red Dress is the story of the trial of Sharon Collins and Essam Eid, the trial that transfixed the Irish public over eight weeks in the summer of 2008.
Sharon Collins is a 45-year-old mother of two. She had been going out with millionaire businessman PJ Howard for eight years when the events that would land her in court took place.
After eight years the relationship was definitely a serious one. Sharon already gone through a divorce with the father of her two sons but that didn’t stop her wanting to get married again, especially when the prospective groom was quite such a catch.
Unfortunately PJ wasn’t the marrying kind. He wasn’t willing to go the extra mile because he didn’t want a wife getting in the way of his son’s inheritance. He wanted to to spend the rest of his life with Sharon though, just not as man and wife. They visited a church while on holiday in Italy and pledged their undying love to one another, but not before they had both signed a piece of paper swearing that they would not now or ever get married.
When they returned from Italy there was a massive party that most of the guests thought was a wedding reception. Sharon even started calling herself Sharon Howard. But it appears she wasn’t going to take the snub lying down.
While she and PJ were pledging their love to one another and announcing their fidelity to their friends, Sharon was taking her first excursion into the murkier side of the Internet. She found a website offering “proxy” marriages, where one or both parties don’t even have to attend the ceremony. Sharon handed over more than €1000 to pay for a dodgy Mexican marriage certificate and used it to get a passport in her “married” name of Howard.
If this had been all, the story might not have hit the headlines in the way it did. Unfortunately in August 2006, Sharon went Internet shopping again. This time she was looking for a hitman. The first site she tried was Hitman.us, which might look as if it fits the bill but actually sells t-shirts. Then she found Hitmanforhire.net. She entered into an increasingly flirtatious correspondance with the so-called Tony Luciano, not realising that stuff sent from a Yahoo account isn’t actually untraceable. She was also emailing from computers at home and at work…so the trail began.
Unfortunately what she didn’t know that Tony Luciano didn’t actually exist and that Hitmanforhire had been set up from an address in Las Vegas by an Egyptian poker dealer and his extra “wife” Teresa Engle. Essam and Teresa were not the hardened criminals that Hitmanforhire might suggest. They managed to hook two desperate women through the website but in both occasions, instead of bumping anyone off, they went to the suggested marks and demanded money to cancel the hit. No one was ever hurt and Essam and Teresa managed to get caught on both attempts.
Over a couple of weeks in September 2006 they attempted the same scam twice, first in California with a Loan advisor whose boyfriend’s ex had come over all Fatal Attraction, then in Clare, where they approached PJ’s two sons and demanded €100,000. The two lads didn’t supply the money, they called the cops.
This is just a potted history of the trial, there’s a lot more – including allegations of kinky sex, a hapless Irish soldier who wandered into the Twilight Zone while looking for cheats to the Hitman computer game and a kitchen recipe for the deadly toxin ricin, but I’m not going into that here, it’s all in the book…